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Working for no pay: Local government workers struggle to make ends meet

Several FAA employees picketed outside Gerald R. Ford Airport Monday to inform the public what this shutdown means for government workers and their families.

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich — The now 31-day shutdown has meant something different for everyone in the Professional Aviation Safety Specialists (PASS) group, but none of their situations are ideal.

"Some of our members are furloughed, and not able to report to work. They're not on a free paid vacation as some may call it," said PASS Michigan president Tim Mach on Monday. "Others are deemed essential, we have to report to work and do the work without 20 percent of our workforce. And some people have been furloughed and then called back to work for no pay."

None of them have received a paycheck since Dec. 31, which is why Mach accompanied by two other FAA employees picketed outside the Gerald R. Ford Airport Monday morning. Mach said it is one of a few different informative pickets he has done over the last few weeks between Detroit, Grand Rapids and Flint. 

"We're doing our best to inform the public about what we do even if we're not getting paid," Mach said. 

Mach say their jobs are to maintain and certify the equipment that allows planes to fly and land safely. He says the added stress this month puts everyone at risk.

"How am I going to pay the bill? How am I going to feed the kids? How am I going to pay the tuition? To have those things distracting you from a job that you have to be 100 percent focused on, just adds another layer of risk to the job that we do," Mach said. 

Other Michigan FAA employees have picked up part-time jobs just to make ends meet, while some are searching for new jobs entirely. 

Ken Estelle, who runs Feeding America's West Michigan branch, said that often times it's food that falls to the wayside when families need to pay their rent or utilities. 

"We are seeing more people needing food than in the past," Estelle said. 

Feeding America West Michigan counts on 30 to 50 volunteers each day to distribute food across the state, but with increased need -- they could use more helping hands. 

"We know that there are a lot of organizations pitching in and we are one of those," Estelle said. 

This week Feeding America will bring their mobile food pantry to the Gerald R. Ford airport to supply airport employees. 

If you'd like to volunteer or make a financial donation, visit their website

Emma Nicolas is a multimedia journalist. Have a news tip or question for Emma? Get in touch by email, Facebook or Twitter.